The City Council has just set its annual budget. Remarkably, the budget was agreed unanimously by all the councillors present on a cross-party basis. I’m proud to have played my part in working with the other parties to help build a consensus on what is important for Worcester.
Key highlight for me is our commitment to spend up to £60K on additional enforcement officers for things like parking, litter and dog fouling. We are planning to invest another £75K on supporting new businesses establish and grow as well as an additional £25K on promoting tourism. I am especially pleased to welcome an additional £100K on tackling climate change. Each party had to compromise but in the end we have an agreement that we can all support for the year ahead.
The council faces tough financial pressures. The amount of money we get from central government has been cut by 50% and we are now much more dependent on the money we raise locally. Car parking income is down from our plan and the recent floods are going to hit this source of income further as many of our car parks were flooded by river water. Due to competition from elsewhere in the county our income from the crematorium is also down. On a more positive note the council is in the process of purchasing a buy-to-let office block near the hospital, this new rental income will help us to balance the books.
Another source of income that will be increasingly important is business rates and it is for this reason that the councillors from all political parties are working together to make Worcester a great environment to start and develop a business. This is very much part of reasoning behind the additional investments in business start-ups and measures to increase the number of tourists visiting our city.
The council is continuing to look at its costs and I expect some very tough decisions will need to be made in the months and years ahead. I will keep you informed as we move forward.
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Cllr Louis Stephen